17 Oct 2010

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered: (10) The Temple of Uppsala, Sweden

An early 20th-century reimagining of the Temple of Uppsala by Carl Larsson

One of the most authentic, interesting, and specific accounts of pre-Christian paganism was written by Adam of Bremen, a German chronicler of the 11th century, in his ecclesiastical history of the Bishopric of Hamburg.

As a Christian, he was obviously biased against paganism, but nevertheless managed to preserve some interesting information about the pagan beliefs that preceded the cultural genocide committed by the Church.

His mention of human sacrifice is a typical example of Christian hypocrisy, as the Church continued to sacrifice millions in its crusades, inquisitions, and witch hunts for many years to come.

Here is an English translation of the passage in Latin describing the Temple of Uppsala:

The Swedes have a well known temple at Uppsala, not far from Sigtuna and Björkö. It is situated on level ground, surrounded by mountains. A large tree with spreading branches stands near the temple. There is also a spring nearby where the heathens make human sacrifices. A golden chain completely surrounds the temple, and its roof, too, is covered with gold.

The temple houses the statues of three gods:

Thor takes the central position, with Wotan and Frey on either side. Thor, according to their beliefs, governs the air with its thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and fair weather. He is depicted carrying a scepter, much as our people depict Jove.

Wotan (which means "the furious one") governs war and has the ability to protect humans against their enemies. He is depicted with armor and weapons, much as our people depict Mars.

Frey governs peace and pleasure. His statue is fashioned with an immense phallus.

The Swedes also worship their heroes from the past, whom they have endowed with immortality because of their great deeds.

The heathen priests in Sweden offer sacrifices to Thor if the people are threatened with plague or famine; to Wotan for victory at war; and to Frey for happiness in marriage.

Every nine years a great ceremony is held at Uppsala. People bring sacrifices from all the Swedish provinces. The most distressing feature of this festival is that Christians too participate in the sacrifices, thus marking their return to heathenism. Animals and humans alike are sacrificed, and their bodies are hung in the trees of a sacred grove that is adjacent to the temple. The heathens believe that the grove has been made sacred through the death and the putrefaction of the many victims that have hung there. A seventy-two year old Christian reported to me that he had personally witnessed these sacrifices. The heathens chant many different prayers and incantations during these rituals, but they are so vile that I will say nothing further about them.

From Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, book 4, sections 26-27.

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